Top Companies Report

12. Lion

July 29, 2016

Sales:  $2.8 billion

Key Personnel: Itsuo Hama, president and chief executive officer; Kohei Miyauchi, executive general manager, purchasing; Tomomichi Okano, executive general manager, research and development; Yutaka Shinohara, executive general manager, production; Yugo Kume, executive general manager, health and home care products; Fumitomo Noritake, executive general manager, direct sales; Masaharu Mikuni, executive general manager, health and home care product sales; Hitoshi Suzuki, executive general manager, international and oleochemicals.

Major Products: Oral care, skin care, beauty products, toiletries, fabric care, home care and household cleaners.

New Products: Fabric care—Top Super Nanox super-concentrated liquid laundry detergent, Soflan Aroma Rich and Queen’s Silk fabric softeners; Home care—Charmy Magica, Charmy Magica Antibacterial + and Charmy Magica unscented dish detergents; Oral care—Clinica Advantage dental gel and Clinica Advantage dental tuft, Systema Arch Fit toothbrush and Haguki Plus toothbrush; Personal care—Ban Sweat-Blocking Roll-on, Soap-scented Ban, KireiKirei foaming hand soap.

Comments: Sales rose 3% last year, the first in Lion’s three year, V-2 Plan. It calls for domestic growth, qualitative international expansion, new business development and enhanced organizational learning, all with the goal to improve profitability and boost sales. Pretty straightforward stuff, in fact, the company revised its performance forecasts upward twice in 2015—despite headwinds from a slowdown in China and instability in Europe.

So far, it’s working, according to CEO Itsuo Hama. Last year Lion was able to raise prices for its oral care, dishwashing detergents and other products as Japanese consumers’ interest rose in high-value-added products. Outside Japan, Lion has been able to satisfy the need for high-value products in Thailand, South Korea and China. Elsewhere, Lion repositioned its operations in Malaysia as a subsidiary and opened an office in Taiwan.

Despite these efforts, consumer product sales dipped (less than 1%), a drop that Lion executives blamed on the reactionary drop in spending that followed the surge in demand prior to Japan’s consumption tax hike in 2014. But there were bright spots. Operating income rose 18%. New products helped boost sales of Clinica and Systema oral care products, 108% and 112%, respectively. The roll out of Soflan Aroma Rich boosted the company’s fabric softener sales by 16%. Lion finished 2015 holding the No. 1 position in toothpaste, toothbrushes and hand soaps in Japan; and was No. 3 in laundry detergents, fabric softeners and dishwashing detergents. To maintain that momentum, Lion is focused on building its Clinica toothpaste brand, and supporting the launch of Top Super Nanox super-concentrated liquid detergent.

International sales more than doubled last year, led by a 33% gain in Philippines. Other countries posting growth included China (up 20%), Taiwan (+11%), Indonesia (+8%), Hong Kong (+6%), Malaysia (+4%) and Singapore (+4%).

This year, Lion is focusing on oral care and laundry detergents, with the goal of expanding market share and the overall Japanese market. Internationally, the focus remains on China with plans to boost marketing efforts in Northeast Asia, and build its personal care sales in Southeast Asia. 
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